Saturday, September 12, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville suffers second big loss

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Red Devils could get nothing going offensively, and couldn’t stop the Benton Panthers defensively in their home opener Friday at Jan Crow Stadium. The visiting Panthers shut out the Red Devils for the second year in a row, this time 42-0.

Benton scored first with just 88 seconds ticked off the clock. Jacksonville hit a big play on the ensuing drive when quarterback Brandon Hickingbotham hit receiver Harderrious Martin for a 54-yard gain to the Benton 15, but the Red Devils went backwards from there and punted from the 34-yard line.

Benton then went 86 yards in nine plays for a 14-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first quarter.

The Panthers intercepted Hickingbotham on the second play of the ensuing drive and scored three plays later, making it 21-0 still in the first quarter.

Jacksonville went three and out, and a bad punt snap gave Benton possession on the Red Devil 12-yard line. Two plays later, the Panthers led 28-0 with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.

The miscues continued in the second quarter. After a 20-yard pickup by Robert Knowlin, a fumble and Benton recovery gave the Panthers the ball at the Jacksonville 33. On the very next play, Benton scored and added an extra point with 11:12 left until halftime.

Another punt snafu set Benton up on the Jacksonville 26, but Red Devil defensive back Stevie Eskridge picked off a pass at the 5-yard line.

The Red Devils moved the ball to midfield, but Hickingbotham was sacked on fourth down to give Benton possession. The Panthers scored for the final time on a five-play drive that set the final margin with 3:23 left in the second quarter.

The clock ticked the entire second half and each team got just three possessions. Jacksonville linebacker Malcolm Crudup got an interception at the Red Devil 20 and returned it 68 yards before being dragged down at the Benton 12. But Jacksonville was unable to score, throwing incomplete in the end zone on fourth down.

Jacksonville had just 63 net yards of offense. Benton had 366 total yards.

SPORTS STORY >> Bears post 62 again, barely beat Lakeside

Special to The Leader

The Sylvan Hills football team broke the school record for total yards in a game for the second week on a row on Friday, racking up 669 yards of offense in a wild 62-54 victory over Hot Springs Lakeside at Bill Blackwood Field in Sherwood.

“I don’t think you could have gone to a better high school game,” said Sylvan Hills coach Jim Withrow. “If you paid five bucks for that, you more than got your money’s worth, I think.”

The Bears totaled 657 in its week-one, 62-28 win over Vilonia, but Friday’s home opener was no blowout. The Rams piled up 554 yards and had a chance to tie it late in the fourth quarter.

“That’s what they do,” Withrow said. “One of the things about Lakeside, they don’t quit. It was just a great high school football game. Anybody wondered how good a player Jordan Washington and Brandon Bracely were, I think they found out tonight. The offense played well. We blocked up front, and defensively, when we had to make a stop, we made a stop. They’re good offensively. All of our guys made some plays. The blocked extra point was huge. We wanted somehow to keep an extra possession, and that was the whole deal.”

After playing to a 27-27 tie and with a combined 565 yards of offense at the half, Sylvan Hills scored five touchdowns in the second half to the Rams four to pull out the victory in the marathon of points and yardage.

Sylvan Hills had the game’s first possession but punted to the Ram 19-yard line.

The Bear defense forced a punt, but was called for roughing the punter. Lakeside turned the penalty into points as they drove down the field on big runs by Colt Housley and Maurice Bradford, who took the ball into the end zone from 7 yards out. Garrett Tarbett added the extra point and the Rams led 7-0 with 7:11 to go in the opening quarter.

Sylvan Hills responded immediately with a 60-yard keeper for a touchdown by Washington. Tito Mandoza tied it at seven with his extra point kick.

The Rams next drive was halted by an interception by Darius Waddell, and Sylvan Hills converted on the turnover, going 82 yards in seven plays.

Brandon Bracely capped the drive with a 26-yard touchdown scamper. There was trouble on the extra point snap, but the Bears had the lead, 13-7, with 3:18 to go in the first quarter.

The Rams drove 68 yards and tied the score on a 1-yard plunge by Housley, and their extra point was no good, so the score remained 13-13.

The next Lakeside drive was stopped by a Flippo interception at the goal line, but the Bears turned the ball over on a fumble. The Rams had a short field on the Sylvan Hills 24 and scored on four plays on a touchdown by Bradford, giving the visitors a 20-13 lead with 8:35 to go in the second quarter. The lead increased to 27-13 when Washington was intercepted by Jack Hill for a pick six.

The Bears bounced right back, and after runs by Washington and Bracely, Dion Youngblood found the end zone from 23 yards out. Mandoza was good with the point after for a 27-20 Lakeside lead.

Sylvan Hills was to score the last touchdown of the half, driving from its own 33-yard line in eight plays. Washington connected with Cameron Sharp for the 10 yard touchdown reception with 2:40 to go. Mandoza’s extra point knotted the score at 27.

Bracely scored on a 23-yard run on the first Sylvan Hills possession of the second half to complete a 10 play, 92 yard drive. The score came with 6:02 left in the third and put the Bears in the lead 34-27.

Lakeside scored on a touchdown by Bradford to tie the score. On the ensuing kick-off, the short kick appeared to be fumbled by the Bears and recovered by the Rams. However, catch interference was called on Lakeside, and Sylvan Hills retained possession on its own 46-yard line. On second and 15, Bracely struck again with a 59-yard touchdown run, and the home team took the lead again, 41-34, with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter.

The Rams answered with a Housley touchdown as the game moved into the final quarter. The Bears defense came up with the huge block of the extra point to remain in the lead, 41-40.

Youngblood had two runs of 23 yards each in the next Sylvan Hills drive, but it was Bracely again for the 26-yard score. The Mandoza kick made the lead 48-40 with 9:16 remaining.

Bradford got free for a 53-yard touchdown run for the Rams. Lakeside went for the two-point conversion to tie the game, and it was Bradford again for the carry, and the score, knotting the score yet again, this time at 48 all with 8:20 left to play.

It did not take the Bears long to answer, with Bracely scoring on a 62-yard run on the second play of the possession. With the extra point, the lead was now 55-48 in favor of Sylvan Hills.

The Bears stopped a two-point conversion on the next Ram touchdown to hold on to a 55-54 lead.

Bracely added one more touchdown to his night with 2:59 remaining to set the final score at 62-54.

Lakeside was threatening with second and goal on the 3-yard line, but was called for holding. Washington then intercepted a pass in the end zone to secure the victory for Sylvan Hills.

Bracely rushed for 270 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught one pass for 30 yards and a score to finish with 300 total yards and six touchdowns. Washington rushed for 175 and threw for 91 for the 2-0 Bears.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot finds way to win at Catholic

Leader sports editor

Cabot overcame four fumbles and a stingy Catholic defense to defeat the Rockets 40-33 in overtime Friday at War Memorial Stadium. The Panthers scored on two big plays in the first quarter that led to a 26-14 halftime lead, but needed a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter to tie the game at 33-33. Defenses dominated the fourth quarter, and Cabot made a defensive stand in overtime to hang on for the victory.

“This game had everything,” said Cabot coach Mike Malham. “If you’re just a spectator, this was a great high school football game to see. It could’ve gone either way. We were just fortunate we were the ones that got the win. Catholic could’ve given up when we jumped out on them, but they didn’t quit. Like I said, we were very fortunate tonight.”

Catholic won the toss heading into overtime and elected to go on defense. Cabot started at the Catholic 10-yard line, and sophomore halfback Adam Flores picked up 7 yards on first down. Senior fullback Kolton Eads did the rest, barreling forward for 2 yards on second down, and 1 more on third down. Cabot’s Caleb Schulte made the extra point to put Cabot ahead 40-33.

Catholic took possession at the Cabot 10, and lost 6 yards when junior Colin Thompson stopped Catholic running back Lance Harville-Thomas on a Wildcat handoff. After two incomplete passes, Catholic faced fourth and goal from the 16-yard line.

Quarterback Andre Sale dropped back to pass but couldn’t find an open receiver. A huge hole opened up in the middle of the field and Sale made a break for the end zone. But senior lineman Lino Garcia made a diving, shoestring tackle at the 6-yard line to seal the victory for the Panthers.

“The defense stepped up in the fourth quarter,” Malham said. “We scored a defensive touchdown. They scored a defensive touchdown. It was a great game, but it was the kind that’ll put a few more gray hairs on my head.”

Cabot led 26-14 at halftime, but the Rockets scored three touchdowns in a span of less than three-and-a half-minutes in the third quarter to take a 33-26 lead. The first was on a 10-yard pass play from Sale to Taylor Price that capped a nine-play drive with 8:36 left in the third quarter. Cabot turned it over on downs at the Catholic 44 on the ensuing possession, and Sale hit Thompson O’Lainey on the very next play to tie the game at 26-26.

Cabot started at its 20 and Flores went 23 yards on first down, but quarterback Jarrod Barnes made an ill-advised pitch as he was being tackled on an option play, and Catholic’s Jared Allison scooped it up and raced 42 yards for the touchdown. This time the extra point was good, giving the Rockets a 33-26 lead that lasted only 15 seconds.

Catholic Andrew Rodriguez had put all but one kickoff into the end zone, but left this one short at the 10-yard line, where Holdyn Barnes caught it and raced 90 yards down the visitors’ sideline for the score.

He received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for beginning to celebrate at about the 20-yard line. The penalty was assessed on the kickoff, but field position didn’t matter for the rest of regulation, as neither offense could get anything going until overtime.

Flores had two carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns just five minutes into the game, but Cabot missed a PAT and a two-point conversion failed, leaving Cabot with a 12-0 lead with 7:21 left in the first quarter.

The Rockets took over on their own 34 and drove that distance in 11 plays, converting two fourth downs in the process, including one by getting Cabot to jump offsides. Catholic’s Josh Pinter got the last 3 yards of the drive on first and goal when he was left all alone in the right corner of the end zone. The extra point was good, making it 12-7 with 3:10 left in the first quarter.

Jarrod Barnes fumbled on the first play of the next drive, and Catholic’s Jensen Chier covered it at the Cabot 21. It took six plays from there, including another fourth-down conversion, for the Rockets to get into the end zone.

Harville-Thomas went up the middle for the final 6 yards for the score, and the extra point gave Catholic a 14-12 lead with 1:09 left in the first quarter.

Cabot continued to struggle on offense on its next three drives, totaling -6 yards in nine plays, but the defense came through to reclaim the lead for the Panthers. Facing third and 14 from its own 9-yard line, Sale threw under pressure right to Cabot cornerback Holdyn Barnes, who returned it 22 yards for the score with 7:32 remaining in the half.

“Holdyn had a big game for us,” Malham said. “Those were two big plays he made when we needed it.”

Cabot forced a punt and finally put together its first sustained drive of the game. The Panthers went 68 yards with the help of two pass interference penalties that moved the ball from the Catholic 45 to the 15. Two runs by Jarrod Barnes later, Cabot led 26-14 and missed another extra point to set the halftime score.

Cabot fumbled four times, including three by Barnes, after five fumbles last week, with four by the junior quarterback.

“We’ve got to do something about that,” Malham said. “When you fumble you cost yourself an opportunity, and you give the other team an extra one. We made a lot of mistakes.”

Cabot finished with 270 yards, 258 on the ground. Flores led the way for the second week in a row. He finished with 10 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns.

Catholic had 324 yards, including 205 passing and 119 rushing.

SPORTS STORY >> Beebe sweeps Bruins, Devils

Leader sports editor

The Lady Badger volleyball team staked its claim as the early favorite in the 5A-Central Conference on Thursday, traveling to Little Rock and sweeping Pulaski Academy 3-0 in a pivotal league matchup. Scores in the match were 25-23, 25-17 and 25-18, but each game arrived at those scores in different ways.

Beebe and PA entered the season as the two heavy favorites in the Central Conference after splitting their series last year and finishing as co-champions. Those matches last season were fought tooth and nail, while Thursday’s match was a bit more one-sided.

“I felt confident coming into the match,” said Beebe coach Ashley Camp. “But you never know until you take the court. I thought our service game was a big factor. We worked a lot on that and our service game tonight was pretty on-point.”

The Lady Badgers only missed a handful of serves in all three games combined, forcing the Lady Bruins to play nearly every point.

In game one, the two teams traded side-outs until Beebe took serve trailing 2-1. Kayla Green then served five-straight points for Beebe, giving the Lady Badgers a 6-2 lead before PA broke serve to make it 6-3. Beebe broke right back and scored two more points on serve for a 9-3 lead, forcing the host team to call its first timeout.

That lead increased to 20-11 before the Lady Bruins came storming back. Camp finally called a timeout leading 23-21, but it didn’t break PA’s momentum. The Lady Bruins scored two more points on tip-overs to tie the game, forcing Camp to halt the action again. A long serve ended the Lady Bruins’ streak. On the next point, a poor pass forced a running tip by PA that also led the hitter into the net, giving Beebe the game-one win.

“Holding on and winning game one was huge,” Camp said. “We’ve talked a lot about being able to overcome adversity and we came through. That doesn’t really make up for giving up a huge run when we should have put them away, so there’s still a lot we need to work on. But it was still great to see the girls pull through in a tough situation.”

Beebe setter Sarah Clark started game two with five-straight points on serve, including two aces, but PA mounted a counter rally immediately, tying the game at 9-9 just moments later.

Beebe then scored four-straight on a service break and three points by Shalen Devore, forcing a Bruin timeout. The score was 18-12 when Green served three more points in a row and forcing another timeout. Beebe’s final point was a succession of great plays, starting with a Paige Smith dig of a huge PA kill attempt that the senior libero also turned into a perfect pass to Clark. The senior setter passed the ball to hitter Jerra Malone, who drilled a back-row kill to end game two.

The Lady Badgers played catch-up for most of game three after falling behind 5-0. That was the Lady Bruins’ biggest lead of the game, but Beebe’s comeback was a slow process. The Lady Badgers still trailed 15-12 when they suddenly began to dominate. After a side out, Devore served two points, forcing PA to call timeout after a Malone kill tied the game at 15. It didn’t stop the run. The Lady Bruins hit two kill attempts long, and Beebe’s Gracie Rymel put down a kill in front of the attack line to make it 18-15 Beebe. Abby Smith followed that with a kill before PA finally broke Devore’s serve to make it 19-16. Beebe broke right back with another Rymel kill and Abby Smith followed that with a service ace for a 21-16 lead. The two teams traded side outs to 22-18 before Malone got a kill that sent her to the service line needing two points for the match.

PA was in the net after the first serve. The Bruins got the second back, but another Clark to Malone kill from the back row sealed the win for the Lady Badgers.

Malone finished with 13 kills to lead the Lady Badgers in that category. Clark finished with 17 assists, eight points on serve including three aces, and four kills, all on nifty tips into holes in the PA defense.

Green led the Lady Badgers with 11 points on serve and added three digs, and Paige Smith finished with a team-high seven digs. Abby Smith had four points, four blocks, two kills and two digs. Lani Wolfe finished with four blocks and three kills, and Rymel had three kills and a block.

On Tuesday, Beebe rolled through Jacksonville 25-11, 25-3 and 25-13. Malone had 10 kills in that match and Clark finished with four aces.

Beebe (9-2, 3-0) gets back home after two weeks away when it hosts Mills University Studies on Tuesday.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits outrun Badgers

Leader sportswriter

For the second week in a row, the Lonoke Jackrabbits beat a No. 3 ranked team. After beating Class 4A Star City by double digits in week one, the Jackrabbits beat rival Beebe 39-22 in the Battle of Hwy. 31 on Friday at James B. Abraham Stadium.

“Like I just told them there, the No. 3 team last week and the No. 3 team in 5A (Beebe),” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of the two wins, “I’m so proud of my boys. We’ve got to keep it going just one game at a time. I’m very proud of the effort, the energy.

“That’s a team right there that rushed for about 400 yards last week. They scored 41 last week and we held them to 22, so I’m proud of the defense, because it’s definitely a hard offense to stop.”

Lonoke (2-0) received the opening kickoff, and found the end zone in five plays. Runs of 11 and 18 yards by quarterback Savonte Rountree and running back/receiver Justin Meadows helped set up a 19-yard touchdown run by Rountree on an option keeper with 9:55 left in the opening quarter.

Ethan Holland kicked the extra point to give the hosts an early 7-0 lead. Beebe started its first possession at its own 35, and after four-straight runs of 3 yards by Trip Smith and Tyler Woodall, Jo’Vaughn Wyrick took the fifth handoff from quarterback Justin Burlison and ran 2 yards before fumbling it over to the Rabbits.

Starting near midfield, Lonoke’s Rountree ran for negative yards on the first play of the possession, and Meadows took a pitch on the second play 56 yards for another Lonoke touchdown. The PAT was blocked, leaving the score 13-0 Jackrabbits.

Beebe (1-1) responded on the ensuing drive. Starting from their own 34, the Badgers went on a six-play drive that ended with a 16-yard TD run by Wyrick with 4:16 left in the first quarter. Connor Patrom kicked the extra point to make it a 13-7 game.

Lonoke answered with a six-play drive of its own that resulted in a score. That score came on a shifty 38-yard TD run by Meadows with 2:04 left in the first. The 2-point try was unsuccessful, leaving it 19-7 Jackrabbits.

The Badgers then maintained possession for the rest of the first quarter and kept it for the first half of the second. That 15-play drive was capped with a 2-yard TD run by Smith with 6:05 left in the half. Patrom’s PAT was good, which cut Lonoke’s lead to 19-14.

Once again, though, Lonoke’s offense answered with a touchdown. Starting from their own 44, the Jackrabbits marched down the field in 10 plays and scored on a 5-yard option keeper by Rountree with 1:15 to go in the half.

The 2-point try was unsuccessful, which made the score 25-14. Beebe’s offense tried to answer before the half. Starting from its own 35, Beebe’s Wyrick took the first handoff 10 yards for a first down, but the senior standout back didn’t get up after the play.

Wyrick stayed down for a lengthy period, and had to be carted off the field with what appeared to be a significant leg injury. Beebe managed two more first downs before time ran out on the Badgers in the first half, with the score 25-14 at halftime.

Things didn’t get any better for Beebe in the second half. The Badgers had the first possession of the second half, but on the Badgers’ first play of the half, they fumbled and the ball was recovered by Lonoke’s Kane Williams at the Badger 46-yard line.

Lonoke’s offense made Beebe pay for the mistake by marching the ball down field and scoring in eight plays. The score came on a 9-yard TD run by running back Josh Coleman with 8:34 to play in the third quarter. Rountree took an option keeper in for the successful 2-point conversion, which gave Lonoke a comfortable 33-14 lead.

The two teams traded possessions before Beebe scored on a 1-yard TD burst by Smith with 6:29 left in the final quarter. Woodall added the 2-point conversion to cut the Jackrabbit lead to 33-22.

Beebe’s onside kick was covered by Lonoke at the Badger 49, and the Jackrabbits sealed the victory with a seven-play drive that led to a 7-yard touchdown run by Logan Dozier with 3:17 left in the game. Dozier’s touchdown also set the final score.

“Hats off to them,” said Beebe coach John Shannon of Lonoke. “They played exceptionally well and we didn’t play as well as we needed to. We had a couple of turnovers. Offensively, they had their way with us.

“Last week, the defense played really well and not so well this week. Of course, losing Jo’Vaughn really kind of took the wind out of our sails. I thought the kids fought hard, but you take someone like Jo’Vaughn out of the lineup it’s tough.”

Lonoke ended the rivalry game with 395 yards of offense. Beebe finished the night with 264 offensive yards, but had just 88 in the second half.

Coleman led Lonoke’s ground game with 28 carries for 165 yards and a touchdown. Meadows had five carries for 109 yards and two TDs. Rountree was 2 for 2 passing for 23 yards, and he added 11 carries for 66 yards and two TDs. Dozier contributed four carries for 32 yards and one score.

For Beebe, Smith led the backfield with 27 carries for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Wyrick had seven carries for 67 yards and a score, and Woodall added nine carries for 57 yards.

The Jackrabbits will look to improve their record to 3-0 next week at home against Class 5A McClellan, a team that came back late to beat Lonoke a year ago. Beebe will try and rebound next week against Vilonia in what will be the Badgers’ home opener. Kickoff for next Friday’s nonconference finales will begin at 7 p.m.

Friday, September 11, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Saving Jacksonville

A new group called the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association recently held its first meeting. Members include several Jacksonville business owners and concerned residents who want to improve the appeal of downtown, which has lost several shops and restaurants to areas closer to Hwy. 67/167.

Mayor Gary Fletcher and Alderman Barbara Mashburn organized the new endeavor. The mayor has long hoped to usher in an economic revival for the city. Let’s hope the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association, along with the city’s new school district, will start things off.

The group will meet again at 7 p.m. Monday at The Game Store at 915 W. Main St. in the old Hastings, where members will continue brainstorming about what is needed to attract people back to the city’s old heart. It’s important work that we’re excited to see happening.

This newspaper once suggested the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce join the Arkansas Downtown Network, which awards local businesses grants to improve their storefronts, supports beautification projects and even offers general business advice to help revitalize downtown areas.

Sounds like a perfect match for the Downtown Jacksonville Business Association. The city’s Advertising and Promotions Commission should pay its reasonable membership dues.

The Downtown Jacksonville group should invite a representative from the Arkansas Downtown Network to speak sometime. It will hold a convention to showcase its offerings Monday through Wednesday at the Central Arkansas Library System’s Ron Robinson Theater, 100 River Market Ave. in Little Rock.

Mashburn is known for her efforts to create a historic district along the railroad tracks on North First Street in hopes of saving some of the oldest buildings in town and giving residents a reason to venture out here. She also hopes to build a replica train depot like the original that was removed decades ago.

The area has suffered on both sides of the tracks ever since the city closed the Graham Road railroad crossing, creating a slumlike zone. Businesses closed as traffic declined, and the city awkwardly reroutes drivers for several blocks before they can get to where they’re going.

The city and county should build a less expensive overpass where the Graham Road crossing one was, which will help reopen many of the shuttered businesses. Only then will it make sense to have a historic district there.

Otherwise, visitors to the historic district will look out across the tracks and see abandoned buildings that the city has no plan to help revitalize, and they’ll think Jacksonville is a community that doesn’t care.

EDITORIAL >> More C-130s from Keesler

Second District Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) wants to bring all 10 C-130Js at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi to Little Rock Air Force Base, saving taxpayers $60 million to $100 million over five years.

That would be a welcome boost for our air base, which will mark its 60th anniversary next month.

Moving Keesler’s airlifters to LRAFB makes sense. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul J. Selva, also supports the plan because of the huge savings. “In these challenging fiscal times, our military needs to be as efficient and effective as possible. If Little Rock makes the most sense logistically, then we need to have these planes stationed there,” Selva told a congressional committee.

That’s coming from one of the highest-ranking officers at the Pentagon. Hill says a simple cost analysis convinced him it’s a good move. The Air Force should move those planes here as soon as possible.

Hill, a freshman, is a former banker who has pledged to slash federal spending and has supported sequestration, which haphazardly pulled money from the military and caused problems for LRAFB.

Hill occupies the seat once held by Vic Snyder, a low-key Democrat and doctor, who perhaps brought more money to the air base than any other congressman in the state’s history. From infrastructure improvements to helping to usher in the era of C-130Js, Snyder’s work, and others’, helped make the base BRAC-proof so long as the C-130 cargo planes stay integral to military operations worldwide.

During a recent visit with constituents at North Metro Medical Center, Hill said it was time LRAFB took Keesler’s C-130s. It’s a good idea, but folks may have expected to hear a few words about how Congress might help the struggling hospital.

If it weren’t for the Affordable Care Act, which expanded Medicaid to millions of Americans and came to be known as Obamacare, North Metro Medical Center would have closed by now. Airmen, as well as thousands of Jacksonville and Cabot residents, rely on its emergency room.

Hill frequently criticizes health-care reform even as it has saved money for the state and federal governments and brought more revenue to hospitals providing needed medical services for people. It’s certain that next time Hill is in Jacksonville, he can stop by the air base. North Metro’s future is less secure.

TOP STORY >> Vote Tuesday for JNP board

Leader staff writer

On Tuesday, Jacksonville residents get to do something most in Pulaski County don’t get to do: Elect a school board.

Jacksonville, which is breaking away from the Pulaski County Special School District, will elect its first school board Tuesday.

The rest of the PCSSD patrons and Little Rock residents have no board to vote for as the state controls both districts and acts as the school board. North Little Rock does have a school board election with just one contested race.

Lonoke has two contested races, Melissa Swint vs. Matt Boyles and Charles Hunter vs. Ross Moore.

In Jacksonville, there are three contested races and four unopposed positions.

According to the Pulaski Election Commission, close to 500 residents have already cast ballots through early voting. This compares to about 100 in North Little Rock and less than a dozen in Little Rock.

Not only are Jacksonville residents voting for school board members, they are also voting to maintain the same millage rate (40.7 mils) as residents have been paying as part of PCSSD. Whether residents say yes or no to the rate, it will remain in effect. However, a no vote, according to Tony Wood, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District superintendent, would delay the district from going out and obtaining construction bonds for new facilities.

A committee of area lawmakers appointed the current board of seven members about a year ago and charged it with hiring a superintendent, other district officials and determining board zones. The panel voted to divide the district into five zones and then have two at-large members.

One of the contested races is for an at-large position.

Three residents, none on the appointed board, are running for the Zone 3 seat. They are Jim Moore, Jerry Reichenbach and Barry Roper, a write-in candidate.

Moore, 68, has worked as a human resource manager for 26 years in the Air Force, then, after retirement, for two companies, he said. He is currently director of Christian education, including children and youth ministries, for his church.

“I also taught at Beebe in the in-school suspension program,” Moore said.

Reichenbach, 72, worked in the Title I and Title II programs for the Pulaski County Special School District for 10 years and put all five of his kids through that school system.

He retired after 26 years in the Air Force.

“I was an aircraft welder and civil engineer,” he said, and performed flight-simulator maintenance with the C-130 School House at Little Rock Air Force Base.

Roper, 57, the write-in, is in his fourth year of substitute teaching. Last year, that took him to seven different high schools and five middle schools in four different school districts.

Richard Moss and Marcia Dornblaser are facing off in the race for the Zone 1 seat on the first elected Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board.

Moss, who is serving on the appointed board, is a native of Arkadelphia and has lived in Jacksonville since 2005 – a year after his career in higher education began.

He is a student-success coach at Pulaski Technical College and hopes to be awarded a Ph.D. in public education policy from the University of Arkansas this December.

Moss was a member of the Education Corps, the group that pushed for the area’s split from the Pulaski County Special School District.

Dornblaser has lived in Jacksonville since she was an elementary school student, about 49 years, and raised three children here.

She remembers growing up when Jacksonville was a big player in the high school scene and people had pride in the education system here.

In the Zone 2 at-large race, current school board member Ronald McDaniel, 62, a retired Air Force colonel, is challenged by Celeste M. Williams, 59, a military retiree who works as a testing coordinator for the Army.

“I have raised two children through the Pulaski County Special School District and spent a lot of volunteer time in the district,” Williams says. “I’ve worked with youth and children my whole life.” Williams served as a youth program leader at the base chapel for eight years. She’s a high school graduate with 32 hours of college credit.

McDaniel was appointed to both the district interim board and to the Pulaski County Special School District Advisory Board — positions he said make him “very familiar with the challenges.”

He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a business emphasis and a master’s degree in operations management from the University of Arkansas Joint Education Center.

He retired as commander of the National Guard’s 189th Air Wing maintenance group.

The newly elected board will have to continue hiring district officials and administrators for next school year, which is the breakaway year from PCSSD.

The board will also have to lock in a pay scale for teachers and support staff members.

The appointed board approved a salary schedule that puts most of its money into new teachers and cuts the pay of veteran teachers (those with about 11 years or more of experience).

Zone 3 candidate Moore has told the Leader, “I want to make sure we have quality teachers and that they are paid very well, whether they have five years or 20 years experience.

“I want to work as a team player with the rest of the board members to make sure we do have world-class education and facilities.”

Reichenbach says he’s running because “It’s time for new people.”

Reichenbach said Jacksonville needs its own district and that the proof is in the history — things were done south of the river, new schools and new systems “while Jacksonville continued the old grind.”

As for the salary schedule, which shorts the most experienced teachers compared to what they do or would earn at PCSSD, he said, “There’s only so much money to pay so many people. The pay is equitable, given the money available.”

Roper said he thought salaries should be increased for more experienced teachers as money becomes available. The salary schedule that goes into effect next school year tops out at about $55,000 — as much as $20,000 less than the most experienced, educated PCSSD teachers earn.

“We don’t have a lot of the facilities others do,” he said. “All we have to offer is money, but don’t have the resources. Initially, we may not be able to match what they are used to.”

Zone 2 candidate Dornblaser said having a good education system attracts young families and keeps them here, raises property values and brings in new businesses. She believes the standalone district is the best chance to have good schools.

She added, “It’s very obvious Jacksonville schools have always been left out of any improvements” as part of PCSSD. “We’ve been neglected, and they’ve looked the other way with our schools for years.”

While Dornblaser said she would support a millage increase to build new campuses and there is “no way around it,” Moss said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it…I will fully support it if that’s the route the board chooses.”

Moss also said he was the only “no” vote when the interim board approved the controversial salary schedule designed to attract new and innovative teachers. It gave big pay cuts to experienced teachers.

He would like to see a balance of new and older teachers, to continue increasing transparency and to build partnerships with colleges that would offer credits to students.

At-large candidate McDaniel said he running because “I want to make decisions that will positively impact the future of the students in the district. I want to develop policies that allow district students from kindergarten through high school to maximize their potential to read, write and count well.”

Williams said, “I’m an advocate for children. I thin that they more than anyone need a voice. My whole life I’ve been an advocate for children.”

She has a three-point platform: “I’d like to see a formalized volunteer program, an eight-year term limit for board members and improved teacher salaries,” Williams said.

Now, with its own district, McDaniel said, “Jacksonville can provide a quality education for the young people here and in the future. If you provide that, you’ll have new people moving. A good school district is going to grow the district.”

Unopposed candidates are Daniel Gray, Carol Miles, LaConda Watson and Dena Toney.

Early voting at the Jacksonville Community Center ends Monday. It runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Tuesday, voting will be at multiple sites from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Because voting must occur within the boundaries of the new district, the county election commission has made some changes in polling places.

Precinct 28 voters who normally vote at Kellogg Valley Baptist Church will vote at Bayou Meto Church. Precinct 32 voters who normally vote at the First Baptist Church in Gravel Ridge will vote at the Jacksonville Community Center. Precinct 35 voters who normally vote at The Venue at Chapel Hill will be voting at St. Jude the Apostle Catholic Church.

TOP STORY >> Doomed inmate will die Dec. 14

Leader staff writer

Marcel Wayne Williams, convicted in the 1994 killing of a woman in Jacksonville, is one of eight inmates Gov. Asa Hutchinson scheduled execution dates for this week.

He will be put to death Dec. 14, along with Jack Harold Jones Jr.

Jones was convicted in the capital murder of a Bald Knob woman in 1995.

Williams was found guilty in the capital murder, kidnapping, rape and aggravated robbery of Stacey Errickson.

Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd worked the case. “I am pleased to know the sentencing is being carried out,” he told The Leader.

The chief added that Williams has until Sept. 25 to petition for a reprieve.

Boyd said Williams committed “some very heinous, ugly crimes” and “did some ugly things to people” in Jacksonville and North Little Rock.

Boyd added that Williams had attempted other abductions, kidnapped and raped another woman and been sent to prison as a teenager. He thought, but wasn’t sure, he was jailed then on an aggravated robbery charge.

Williams was tried in Pulaski County Circuit Court, and appealed the convictions to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

But the highest court affirmed the jury’s death sentence in 1999.

According to that ruling, evidence showed Errickson died from strangulation. Her neck and face were deeply bruised, and her hands were tied behind her back. Boyd remembered that she was young. He thought Errickson was in her 20s and said she was married to an airman.

The chief said the case was a lengthily one because, at first, police didn’t have a suspect in her disappearance.

Williams was also in his 20s, Boyd recalled.

According to Supreme Court documents, the victim’s nightmare began when she stopped at the Jacksonville Shellstop for gas around 6:45 a.m. on Nov. 20, 1994.

Williams approached Errickson’s vehicle, pulled a gun and had her move from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s side.

He drove the vehicle away from the gas station, taking the victim to several ATMs, where she withdrew $360 in 18 transactions that were recorded on security cameras. The last transaction was made at 7:37 p.m.

Errickson didn’t come into work that day or pick her child up from the babysitter.

Williams was arrested for a warrant a few days later, on Nov. 29.

He was questioned because physical evidence linked him to two other assaults involving women.

After a 13-hour interrogation during which Williams took police to a house in Little Rock where he told officers he though Errickson might be, Williams admitted to abducting and robbing her.

He also said she was alive to the best of his knowledge.

Williams denied raping the victim and confided that accomplices had physically harmed her. Evidence showed Errickson was assaulted at a storage facility.

Her body was found in a shallow grave on Dec. 5.

Boyd said the victim was found in North Little Rock.

According to court documents, two witnesses testified that they saw Williams at the gas station before Errickson was kidnapped. They said he followed them in a car and attempted to stop them, until they drove onto the air base.

Williams’ trial was held on Jan. 6, 1997. The jury learned then that he had four prior felony convictions.

The aggravating circumstances prosecutors presented and the Supreme Court upheld were that Williams had committed another felony, an element of which was use or threat of violence to another person; the murder was committed to avoid or prevent his arrest; the murder was committed for monetary gain; and the murder was committed in an especially cruel or depraved manner.

The governor also scheduled execution dates for six others.

On Oct. 21, Bruce Earl Ward — convicted of killing a Little Rock woman in 1989 — and Don William Davis — convicted of killing a Rogers woman in 1990 — will be executed.

On Nov. 3, Terrick Terrell Nooner — convicted of killing a Little Rock man in 1993 — and Stacey Eugene Johnson — convicted of killing a DeQueen woman in 1993 — will die.

Boyd added that Nooner was present when Robert Rocket killed a young man at the now-closed gas station on Graham Road. Rocket was sentence to life in prison for that murder.

Jason McGehee — convicted of killing a Harrison man in 1996 — and Kenneth Williams — convicted of killing a Grady man in 1999 — will be executed on Jan. 14.

Boyd hopes that the governor will soon set an execution date for Ledell Lee, who raped and murdered several Jacksonville victims, including a former alderman’s daughter.

TOP STORY >> Colonel: Guards will get medals

Leader executive editor

Col. Charles E. Brown, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, will award medals next week to five airmen who helped stop an attack at Little Rock Air Force Base on June 15.

Two of the airmen killed an armed Jacksonville man who crashed his SUV in front of the gate and stepped out with a rifle, aiming it at the airmen.

On Thursday, Brown described the incident in great detail for the first time after an Air Force review board exonerated the airmen in the shootout.

It lasted just eight seconds and was recorded on surveillance cameras, but it seemed like hours to many of the participants.

“It will resonate with me for quite a while,” Brown said in an interview in his office.

“What I saw brings so much pride to my heart. It’s almost emotional. They absolutely followed my orders to a T, ensuring he didn’t gain access that day. It was an eight-second engagement. By the time the radio calls went out, roughly two to three minutes for the call to get to me, I gave the verbal orders for a lockdown and assembled a crisis action team and went through the motions of securing the base, ensuring that all six sectors on base were clear and there wasn’t an additional threat.”

Larry Dean McElroy Jr., 43, of Old Tom Box Road behind the air base, was killed near his Ford Expedition, which contained several gas cans in the back. He had complained for months that the Air Force was spying on him.

“Ironically,” the colonel said, “he crashed in front a sign that said, ‘No weapons on this installation by order of the installation commander.’”

It was 9:15 Monday morning, less than three weeks after Brown took command of the 19th Airlift Wing.

“I was informed at 9:18 and we took the base into a lockdown. I was actually sitting in this office. My executive officer came in and said, ‘Col. Brown, shots were fired at the front gate, and we think we have an individual down.’ I didn’t know if it was a defender who was down, if it was a victim or a suspect. I didn’t know. I gave the order to lock down the base and assembled the crisis action team.”

“The true heroics that came out that day had nothing to do with what I did,” Brown continued. “I went through things we exercise routinely.”

Brown reviewed the surveillance video that night and remembers every moment of what everyone was doing in front of the base.

“We had two defenders at the front gate,” he recalled. “One walked by over to the visitors center to go on his break, leaving the other sergeant at the main gate. Traffic had kind of slowed by 9:15 in the morning. They were down to a single-lane entry, and we had a semi that had overshot the contractor turnoff to the right,” the colonel said.

“He had missed that and he happened to be blocking some of the traffic and had things a little bit backed up when the vehicle came speeding past him at roughly 80 miles an hour, lost control of his vehicle, locked up his brakes and hit a light pole and slid to a stop right at the visitors center in the middle of the parking lot. At that point, the gentleman opened his door and came out brandishing a weapon.”

“You see the vehicle come in and crash,” Brown continued, “and the defender who was in the gate moves forward, thinking he was about to render medical assistance.

“He thought somebody had a heart attack and passed out at the wheel. So, with his weapon in his hand, he called on his radio for assistance, which, at that point, the gentleman opened his door and brandished a rifle, causing the defender to back pedal and drop his radio. He was off balance.

“The other defender who was on his break came in at an angle and saw the rifle come up to the subject’s shoulder and gave him a verbal engagement,” Brown said. “He verbally challenged him to put his rifle down. The subject then swung his rifle at the new airman. The defender at the gate thought he was pointing the rifle at the visitors center. He didn’t know the other defender was over there. So the defender one, so to speak, at the front gate drew his weapon and the engagement began at that point because he swung his rifle back toward him after verbally engaging him to put his weapon down.”

The shootout was inevitable after McElroy refused to drop his rifle.

“It was roughly five seconds of verbal challenging, and then, when he actually pointed his rifle at the defender, they opened fire on him with their weapons. Two defenders shot at him. The engagement began with both of the defenders firing concentrative rounds at the subject in the vehicle,” Brown said.

“What most people don’t know is there were three other defenders. There were people in their vehicles jumping out and running away. There were people at the visitors center and they saw the guns and they all dropped. The two defenders who were inside could not get out in the manner in which they wanted to.”

“There was a fifth defender, and he was in the commercial lot,” Brown continued. “He’s in the holding pen for the trucks with his canine. The truck driver said, ‘Sergeant, there are shots fired at the front gate. This defender ran so fast to the front gate, he had to unhook his canine unit that was holding him back in order to get to that engagement because, he, too, could not get to his guys fast enough because they’re under fire.”

“We didn’t know if he was alone, or if he was a distracter,” Brown continued. “We didn’t know if there was an additional threat, if there was somebody else already on base as a cooperative assailant. The other defenders cleared the vehicle and made sure there were no additional passengers and secured the area. It’s now a crime scene. He had gas cans in the back of the vehicle. They didn’t know if they were wired for detonation so we had to get explosives ordnance out for disposal to come out.”

The airmen were recently cleared by an Air Force use-of-deadly-force review board. “They found everything was done textbook,” their commander said. “I’m decorating them next week.”

Brown didn’t want to release details of the shooting until the review board completed its work. “I knew our airmen were going to be exonerated,” the commander said.

“On any given day, if you try to affect anyone on this base or in this community, our defenders would be there.”

“To me, the eight seconds of what these airmen did to support each other is really moving to me. You hear a lot about the younger generation. They’re the millenials, Xbox and things of that nature, and you see young men and women who were the defenders without voice commands falling into tactical formation to defend each other when other people were running away they couldn’t get to each other fast enough.”

Brown praised the actions of all the airmen at the front gate that day.

“When you think about what makes our airmen special and when you think about the younger generation that we have, only through genuinely embracing this culture of ours, ensuring common values and defending the public and our nation can you train 19- and 25-year-olds to run to the sound of gunfire. I will always be appreciative to them for that.

“They’re emulating what our senior leaders are emulating,” Brown continued. “I’m blessed. I had an opportunity to sit down with them, five of them. I want to share with them that any pain they may be feeling that I bear the responsibility for it, that they were following orders and followed them to a T. So, whenever they have a question in their mind if they performed as they should, if there was something they could have done differently, I want them to remember every time they followed my orders and the only reason they did is because I can’t be everywhere — and they’re better shots than I am.”

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

TOP STORY >> Video startup hopes to take off

Lida Feller plays with Annabelle, a dog adopted from the Jacksonville shelter after this photo was taken. Making videos to showcase rescue dogs led to her passion for the hobby she hopes will become a business.
Leader staff writer

One Jacksonville woman is hoping to turn the hobby she’s passionate about into a business, RoseMarie Video Creations.

The venture is named for owner Lida Feller’s mother, who passed away in 2000.

Feller told The Leader it all began when, three years ago, she offered to help the city’s animal shelter and a dog rescue group in Beebe create videos of adoptable pets to post online.

She uses her Cannon camera to film events.

Feller explained how shelters and rescues usually post photos and short descriptions potential families can quickly click through.

“Put it into a slideshow, a video show, with music, which catches, you know they see the different things and — by the time they get done with that — they’re going to fall in love with that dog.”

People who saw the videos began to ask if she would film or make a slideshow for them.

Feller said RoseMarie Video Creations would offer “anything that someone’s imagination can go with that has the pictures.”

The owner explained, “Whatever the person wants to give to create a video, you can pretty much do it.”

She also said she uses several different software programs and compared the process to an assembly line, putting the pieces together one after the other.

One idea Feller said she’s likely to pursue is creating videos of loved ones, like moms and dads saying encouraging words their children can listen to after the parents have passed away.

The startup’s prices will be flexible, based on each project, and below the going rate she found of $125 for a video with 25 to 30 pictures, the owner continued. “That’s crazy…(Mine will be) $45 at the most,” Feller said.

Also, $10 of her fee will go to help a homeless pet at the shelter find his or her forever home. And, later, a photo of businesses owners who make a $30 donation to the shelter will appear in a video on the startup’s Facebook page, alongside a photo of the pet they sponsored.

Feller said she likes making videos because “the thing is, is that most videos you do show love. And it’s about love and kindness. And it’s something that the world needs more of.”

Feller added that a video is good when “it can make me cry because it touches me in a good way.” She also said, “I enjoy helping people.”

Already on the RoseMarie Video Creations team is her friend, account executive Nicole Ford, who is helping Feller get the business off the ground.

If the business takes off, Feller said she would like to help the community by hiring those going through tough times and needing a job to make ends meet — single moms, struggling college students, etc. She is willing to teach them the trade.

Find Feller’s work under her name on Youtube or on the startup’s Facebook page.

For more information or to request a video or slideshow, call her at 501-766-5824.

TOP STORY >> Miracle of conjoined twins

Leader staff writer

“To us, they’re just our grandbabies,” said Carol Ezell about 2-year-old twins Emmett and Owen — the “medical miracles” who visited Sylvan Hills Church of Christ in Sherwood on Sunday.

The Ezell twins’ story made national headlines a few years ago, and this is their first out-of-town trip since then.

The conjoined boys were separated at the tender age of six weeks after being born on July 15, 2013. They shared a liver and intestines.

Their grandma, who lives in Sherwood with her husband, told The Leader, “There’s no way that they can be here without the hand of God. At first, I was just devastated...My son, they were just broken. And I was broken for ’em, and we thought we weren’t going to have ‘em.”

She continued, “We failed to give God the glory....‘Why Lord,’ I asked him. ‘Why did you give us these babies?’ And he said, ‘Turn that around. Carol, this is a blessing.’”

The toddlers’ grandpa, Dean Ezell, said, “I’m just as proud as I could be. These boys, despite all the hoopla, they’re just grandkids to me. I’ll be honest with you, I was the optimist in this group…There was never any doubt in my mind.”

The twins’ father, David Ezell of Russellville, spoke about the family’s struggle at the Sunday service. “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to say thank you enough to you guys for the prayers. We needed ’em. We still need ’em,” he began.

David Ezell also announced that he and his wife, Jenni, are expecting a fifth child — a girl. They have four boys now, and the twins are the youngest.

About Emmett and Owen, the dad said, “Before the boys went into their surgery, their separation surgery, I was on my knees begging. And I was terrified, and most days I still am. I was begging God to take what seemed like it was going to be no chance of survival and give me two healthy boys.”

He continued, “What I told God that day was ‘Do this so that you can have a story that I can tell for you that will give you glory and lots of it.’ And God did.”

David Ezell said his wife’s pregnancy was a surprise. He joked about how Jenni said before the first ultrasound, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we went to this appointment and it’s twins?’”

He looked at his wife after the tech found two heartbeats and told her, tongue-in-cheek, “You did this.”

The parents found out in March both their gender and that something was wrong.

David Ezell listed the issues and statistics for the congregation then. He said conjoined twins occur once in every 200,000 births. The parents were told their boys had heart defects and one had severe spinal deformation in the womb.

Most doctors don’t encounter conjoined twins, the dad explained, so theirs presented stats. Approximately 40 to 60 percent are stillborn. Of those born alive, approximately 35 percent survive more than one day, David Ezell said.
“So, under the very best circumstances, our boys had between a 5 and 25 percent chance of living more than one day.”
He and his wife considered terminating the pregnancy to spare their other children “the pain of losing new brothers like that.”

Tests had to be done first because Jenni had a C-section before, and the family traveled to Texas for those.

David Ezell said God went to work then, by having a clinic send the parents to a doctor who had experience with separating conjoined twins.

That gave the family hope, the dad said. He and Jennie changed their minds, putting faith in God.

A lot of prenatal testing followed their decision to have the boys.

The first hurdle was the pair being born alive and then living more than a day. When the twins were born, they “didn’t just survive, they thrived,” David Ezell said.

The first plan was to separate after they turned a year old. But then the family learned Emmett being bigger than Owen would cause their kidneys to shut down, as fluids were to be processed by the larger baby. Emmett’s kidneys were being overworked, and Owen’s weren’t being used enough.

Several other concerns came up, but the family continued to repeat its mantra, which David Ezell said is “God’s got this.”
He told the congregation, “And, frankly, He had it.”

The surgery was nine hours long, but the family waited for 14 hours with that included prep- and post-operation procedures.

David Ezell said they were notified throughout of how it was going. The Ezells expected bad news, complications, but heard of none.

Upon hearing the surgery had gone perfectly, “We rejoiced in a way that I had never experienced in my life,” he said.

The twins came home after nearly a year at a rehabilitation hospital. Their parents learned there how to care for them, as the boys still have numerous medical needs.

The mom and dad train nurses that come into their home to assist with the twins, who were recently able to have their tracheotomy tubes removed but still eat through feeding tubes attached to their stomachs and take dozens of medications.

The toddlers are communicating using sign language now, but will hopefully be speaking soon and may eventually be able to eat without the feeding tubes, their parents said.

David and Jenni Ezell are Arkansas natives, but moved to Texas because the state couldn’t offer medical services the twins will need.

Both of their families live here, though, and the two call both states home.

Jenni Ezell said later at Carol Ezell’s house after the church service, “Family is love, and it’s happiness and joy. I tell Dave these are the golden years of our life. When we get old, this is what we are going to look back on. I don’t want to regret anything. So, five kids. Let’s do it. Let’s be that big happy family.”

TOP STORY >> Déjà vu: Refugees from ’50s to today

Leader editor-in-chief

The scenes of Syrian refugees stranded last week at the two main train stations in Budapest brought back memories of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, when my family took a train from Budapest to the Austrian border in December ahead of the Soviet army that had crushed the uprising.

We left the train station in the morning and it took us just a few hours to get to the border. It was like traveling from Little Rock to Fort Smith, give or take a few miles.

We set out on foot near the border on a cold night with about 20 people and a guide our families had hired to take us to freedom.

We had to avoid landmines and border guards who lit up the skies with searchlights.

We fell on the ground when we saw the lights in the distance and started walking again when the searchlights turned in another direction. We walked all night toward Austria, where a friendly border guard in a big gray winter coat waved toward us at dawn and told us we were safe now.

More than 200,000 Hungarians made it to Austria that winter. In Vienna, people gave us chocolates. Their grandchildren may be the ones who handed out candy last weekend to the refugees who are hoping to get to the promised land — Germany.

Today’s refugees are less welcome in Hungary, where it’s a crime to shelter migrants.

Pope Francis wants every parish to take in refugees, but the Hungarian government and the church in that predominately Catholic country have pretty much ignored him. One cardinal said the Pope was wrong about the migrants, who deserved no sympathy from Hungarians.

While our journey was less than 200 miles, refugees today travel for a thousand miles or more through several countries on foot, by boat and by train. Many perish along the way, while others are forced to return home.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are fleeing wars and persecution every month. Four million have fled the fighting in Syria as President Bashar al-Assad tries to hold onto power against rebel forces and the so-called Islamic State.

Some 40,000 migrants are on the move daily — the equivalent of evacuating everyone in Cabot, Ward, Austin and Beebe every day.

Abdullah al-Kurdi last week buried his 2-year-old son Aylan Kurdi, his brother and mother in Kobani, Syria, after their bodies were washed ashore on a beach in Turkey.

You’ve seen pictures of the boys and their dangling little feet as a Turkish policeman carried them away. Those are perhaps the most dramatic photos of the plight of four million Syrians trying to find new homes away from the genocidal civil war in Syria.

They had fled Kobani months ago after the Islamic State had massacred their relatives. The survivors paid smugglers to get them to Turkey, but that was as far as they could go.

After his children and wife died on their journey, al-Kurdi buried them in their home town.

At about the same time as the funeral, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz came to Washington. He booked 220 rooms at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel before his meeting at the White House with President Obama. They both agreed the nuclear treaty with Iran posed no threat to the Saudis.

You’d think 220 Syrian refugees could stay in a safe refugee camp for several years somewhere for about the same amount of money the Saudis spent on one night at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Our friends the Saudis, like the other Gulf states, have shut their borders to Syrian refugees, while Germany prepares to take in some 800,000 refugees this year. With their oil wealth, the Saudis could not only build comfortable refugee camps for that many migrants in their vast desert kingdom but also pay for food and medicine indefinitely.

Instead, they’re lecturing the West for turning back refugees while the Gulf states do nothing.

It was 35 years ago this summer that Cuban refugees rioted at Fort Chaffee, which temporarily derailed the political career of a young governor named Bill Clinton, who made a comeback two years later and went on to bigger things a decade on.

Politicians often pay the price for welcoming refugees, but sometimes politicians will search their souls and do the right thing, even if it means losing the next election, the way Clinton and President Carter did that fall.

But nobody complains about the boatlift from Mariel bay that brought 120,000 Cuban refugees to the U.S. in 1980 and at least as many a decade earlier. Cubans, like Hungarian-Americans, have become fully integrated in American society.

Germany says it can take in 500,000 refugees a year for several more years, while other European nations say they’ll do a fraction of that. As the world of Islam implodes, almost 2 million Syrians have fled to Turkey, more than 1 million to Lebanon and 630,000 to Jordan. And the Gulf states? Zero.

SPORTS STORY >> Dupree’s first cricket event successful

Leader sports editor

It took a long time to come off, but three years after building a cricket ground at Dupree Park, Jacksonville hosted its first-ever cricket tournament over the weekend. The Little Rock Cricket Club hosted teams from all over the south in the Labor Day Cricket Tournament that took place Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Jacksonville and Rose City.

The Little Rock Cricket Club was set to host the tournament the last two years, but poor weather caused last-minute cancellations both times.

Tempratures were unseasonably warm this weekend, but LRCC’s Andy Patel, who is also commissioner of Jacksonville A&P, said the tournament was a huge success after such a long wait.

“It was a lot of fun and we’re very grateful to Jacksonville for building the facility,” said Patel. “It’s a very popular sport worldwide and there’s plenty of room for people to come and watch and learn about something new. It’s a very entertaining sport.”

The host team did not perform as well as it would have liked. LRCC went 0-4, but all four matches were very close. The opening game’s final was a 167-166 loss to a team from Atlanta. LRCC had the lead, but Atlanta scored the game-winning run with only three wickets (like an out in baseball) left.

“We did really good in the scoring but we could not defend,” said Patel. “But all the games were awesome. It was really good cricket being played there this weekend.”

In the championship game, the Memphis Indian Lions defeated the Dallas Cricket Club 178-170.

LRCC will play again at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rose City.

SPORTS STORY >> Jackrabbits race to win at Star City

Leader sportswriter

The Lonoke Jackrabbits ended their four-game losing streak to Star City in Friday’s regular season opener on the road, and they did so with six touchdowns by senior speedster Justin Meadows en route to a 38-27 victory over the third-ranked Bulldogs.

Meadows, who accounted for 1,491 yards from scrimmage as a junior, scored in all three phases of the game Friday. He scored three rushing touchdowns, threw for a touchdown, returned a punt for a touchdown and returned a fumble for a touchdown to account for all six Jackrabbit scores.

“He had a great game,” said Lonoke coach Doug Bost of Meadows. “He started us off with a sweep for a touchdown, then we turn back around on defense and after a couple of plays we cause a fumble and he ran it back for a touchdown.

“All said and done, he ran for three, he threw one, he scooped and scored one, and he returned a punt for one, and he had some good yards on kickoff return. There were several tackles he had, had 175 yards rushing, so he did have a huge night for us.”

Offensively, Meadows finished the night with eight carries for 175 yards rushing with three scores. Meadows first scored on a 73-yard run less than two minutes into the first quarter. The PAT was no good, leaving the score 6-0 Jackrabbits.

About a minute later, Meadows’ second score came on a fumble recovery that was returned 52 yards. The extra point once again failed, but the TD put Lonoke up 12-0. Star City, who was picked in the preseason to win the tough 4A-8 Conference, scored the final points of the opening quarter.

The Bulldogs’ first score came on a 17-yard draw play by senior quarterback Tye Brown. Brown, a three-year starter for the Bulldogs, owns every school passing record. Andy Magana kicked the extra point to cut the Rabbits’ lead to 12-7.

Lonoke (1-0) struck first in the second quarter, when Meadows threw a 15-yard TD pass to junior wideout Casey Martin with just below five minutes left in the half. Meadows scored the 2-point conversion to push the Jackrabbits’ lead to 20-7.

Shortly after, Meadows returned a Bulldog punt 80 yards for another score. The extra point was unsuccessful, leaving the score 26-7 Lonoke. Star City, though, wouldn’t go away quietly.

The veteran-led Bulldogs (0-1) cut the Jackrabbits’ lead down to 26-21 by the end of the third quarter. They scored touchdowns on a 7-yard run by Eric Briggs with 4:42 left in the third, and an 8-yard run by Hayden Jacks with 12 seconds left.

“We did come out flat in the third quarter,” Bost said. “Their coach (Jett Furneaux) probably gave them a wake-up call at halftime, because they were tough in the third quarter. But we were able to regroup and start getting some first downs on offense there in the fourth quarter.”

Lonoke pushed its lead back to double digits 3:45 into the fourth quarter on a 33-yard TD run by Meadows, his second rushing TD of the game. That put Lonoke up 32-21.

Star City scored just over two minutes later on a 3-yard run by Jacks. The PAT was no good, leaving the score 32-27. Both teams traded possessions before Lonoke converted a huge fourth-and-1 play that put the game away.

Taking the snap at the Star City 20-yard line, Meadows scored the final points of the night late in the game on a 20-yard run on fourth and 1. Lonoke’s defense held Star City scoreless the rest of the way, giving the Jackrabbits the double-digit victory.

“We got down to fourth and 1 and we needed a play,” Bost said. “He (Meadows) was able to take it in from 20 yards out.”

Meadows ended the game with 292 all-purpose yards. He had 175 yards rushing, 15 passing, 80 yards on punt return and 22 on kickoff return. Lonoke junior Logan Dozier had five carries for 64 yards Friday, and senior running back Josh Coleman had 11 carries for 45 yards.

On defense, senior Mike linebacker Ethan Holland led the team with 12 tackles. Meadows and sophomore defensive tackle Michael Hodges contributed seven tackles each.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot visits rolling Rockets

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

The Cabot Panthers got a big win in a major rivalry game to open the season, beating Conway 34-18 at Panther Stadium on Friday, but things don’t appear to get any easier for the Panthers in week two. Cabot visits Little Rock Catholic at War Memorial Stadium on Friday.

The Rockets went on the road in week one and pulled off a big upset, ruining North Little Rock’s first game in its brand new $7.5 million stadium and coach Jamie Mitchell’s first game at NLRHS by beating the Charging Wildcats 32-25 in overtime.

“They look pretty good, too,” said Malham of Catholic. “Anybody that can go get a win at North Little Rock is going to be pretty good. We’re going to have to clean up some mistakes, but we have a chance to be pretty decent ourselves. We made a lot of mistakes against Conway, but we were lucky enough to make some big plays and get a win.”

Running back Lance Harville-Thomas stood out for Catholic last Friday. The senior scored the first and last touchdowns of the game. Harville-Thomas ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, and scored on a 7-yard run in overtime to put the Rockets ahead. The Catholic defense then forced and covered a fumble on NLR’s first play of overtime to seal the win.

Harville-Thomas finished the game with 106 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.

“No. 7 is definitely one that we’re going to have to stop,” Malham said of Harville-Thomas. Fortunately I think we have a little more speed on defense than we’ve had in the past. I thought our defense played really well, especially in the second half. We missed a tackle on that first play whenthey went 50 yards on us. Then that other long one they hit, we had a guy right there but he didn’t turn around and find the ball. If he’d have turned around he probably knocks that one down. He was in good position. So if we get little things like that straightened out, I think we have a chance to be really good on defense.”

The Cabot defense gave up 230 passing yards in the first half as Conway completed 15 of 20 attempts. The Panthers didn’t let that happen in the second half, holding the Wampus Cats to 3 of 13 passing for just 70 yards.

The Panthers sacked Conway quarterback Breylin Smith four times; two each by defensive end Kolton Eads and nose guard Dayonte Roberts. Linebacker Easton Siedl added two tackles for loss. The bad news for Cabot is that Seidl’s partner at middle linebacker, Cody Nabors, was lost for several weeks with a broken collarbone.

Cabot also blocked four kicks, two field goals and two extra points. All four were by safety Connor Daigle, who speed rushes from the right side. Eads, last year’s starting fullback, returned one of the blocked field goals for a touchdown, and almost got the other one.

“The first one he just couldn’t quite grab hold of,” Malham said of Eads. “The second one he got and I thought they were going to chase him down, but they didn’t. They were closing on him the first 20 yards or so, but when he got going they couldn’t catch him.”

Cabot also may have solved its kickoff question after losing last year’s starter, Christian Underwood, to Conway. It was Underwood that Cabot blocked those four times.

The Panther coaching staff felt comfortable with Caleb Schulte as place kicker, but had not been sufficiently pleased with anyone kicking off. The first several kickoffs on Friday were onside, squib or sky kicks. The last two were deep kicks and Schulte kicked both of them deep into the end zone.

“He surprised us when he did that,” Malham said. “That first one he asked me, ‘coach, let me kick it deep.’ I said all right. I’ll give you one shot at it, and he put it in there. Then he did it again. If he can keep that up we’ll keep letting him do it.”

Cabot’s offense also made two plays out of nothing. One was by quarterback Jarrod Barnes, who turned a loose snap on third and 17 into a 29-yard gain. The other was by sophomore halfback Adam Flores, who was stopped in the backfield on fourth and 3, and somehow evaded and broke enough tackles to pick up 17 yards.

Cabot also fumbled five times, losing two of them, and had a couple of key penalties that thwarted drives. Those are the things Malham hopes to correct before Friday.

“We’ve got to fix some things,” Malham said. “We have some athletes that bailed us out a few times last week. It’s early still and I’m pleased with where we’re at. If we can get everything working like we want it too, this could end up being a pretty good team.”